Honors Program Newsletter

Honors Program Newsletter

Feature Story

"Pardon My Finnish"

An Interview with Jarett Hartman '16
by Kate Motsinger

"Sent from my iPhone (on a bus in Sweden)." To say the least, this is not a typical phone tag for a USD student. It's not really a typical phone tag for anyone living outside of Scandinavia. Yet, for Honors student Jarett Hartman '16, it's next to the norm. In a surprising move, Hartman broke with tradition, rejecting the fan-favorite study abroad locations, and elected to pursue an alternative path... in Helsinki, Finland. Taking advantage of the USD Study Abroad Exchange Program, Hartman continued his studies in Business this Fall at Aalto University School of Economics.

Between visiting "Santa's Main Post Office" in the Finnish Lapland and touring cathedrals in St. Petersburg, Hartman squeezed in an interview about his unconventional study abroad experience:

HONORS (HON): How did you settle upon studying in Finland?

JARETT HARTMAN (JH): "That's a funny question for a lot of reasons, and one that I've thought about a lot since I've been in Finland…I wanted to choose a country where I knew I could have a fairly unique experience. I really wanted to immerse myself into a culture that I knew nothing about, and Finland certainly fit that bill. When I initially inquired about studying in Finland, I was told that "maybe one" student from USD would attend Aalto University every year, so that piqued my interest in a lot of ways – and hey, now I'm that 'maybe one.'…But really, I just wanted something different than the usual study abroad experience. I didn't want to choose somewhere too comfortable…And to be totally honest, I went into this entire experience a bit blind. One of the funniest things about my semester in Finland is that I don't really have any good reason for being here other than the fact that I chose to come here. I didn't know much of anything about Finland when I applied. I was not particularly drawn to Finnish culture in any way -- mostly because I didn't know anything about it. I had no idea what living in Finland would actually be like, other than that it would be cold during the winter. I didn't speak to any USD students who had previously studied in Finland, and no USD students are here with me now, so I didn't really have any major discussions with people beforehand. And I didn't really do much research or planning before I arrived in Finland. I had no expectations for my semester abroad because I literally did not know what to expect. And I think that's precisely why my experience in Finland has been as amazing as it has been."

HON: Did you have to be competent in Finnish before you arrived? Are your classes in English or Finnish?

JH: "I knew absolutely no Finnish before I left, and I still know basically no Finnish even after living here for a few months… Finnish is actually one of the hardest languages in the world to learn… It's no coincidence that there are five million Finns and five million Finnish speakers. The entire country is essentially fluent in Finnish and English, with older generations often fluent in Swedish as well (Finland is officially a bilingual country). There's been basically no language barrier for me since I've been here, which has been a real blessing…All prospective exchange students also have to have a certain level of English proficiency in order to apply to Aalto, as all of the classes that exchange students take are taught in English."

HON: So, it's been about four months since you arrived in Finland. What has been the best part of your experience to date?

JH: "By studying in Finland, I think you automatically open yourself up to a much different cultural experience than if you choose a more traditional European country, like Spain or France. Scandinavian culture is just so different from 'European' culture – it's less of a subsection of European culture and more of a separate category altogether. I think there's a sort of cultural understanding between the Scandinavian countries (Finland, Sweden, Denmark, and Norway) that the other European countries can't ever have, and that leads to a pretty distinct separation between the two collective 'European' and 'Scandinavian' cultures… But when you're in a country like Finland, you get to easily go to places like the Finnish Lapland – a real winter wonderland (and the home of Santa, because he's a Finn). There you can go dogsledding, try snowshoeing on fells and frozen lakes, ride in reindeer sleighs, ski down world-class slopes, and so much more. Where else are you realistically going to do that? Lapland was one of the most breathtakingly beautiful places I've ever been, and I wouldn't have even known about it if I hadn't studied in Finland... It's really quite hard to try and sum up my experience. I've described Finland like this before, and I have no problem describing it like this again: I think that Finland is a magical place. It's kind of like the hidden gem of Europe, the "Pearl of the Baltic" as it's sometimes called. I think Finland flies basically off of the radar of the rest of the world, which really is a shame because it doesn't try to… My experience in Finland has been the experience of a lifetime, and I honestly hope that more people take advantage of the program that is offered through the exchange between Aalto University and USD. I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a program that is more accommodating to exchange students than the program with Aalto."

Now, as any shrewd Honors student would be asking at this time, "what's the catch? If this is so cool, then why do so few people go this route for study abroad?" No catch. Well, catch-and-a-half. Only a handful of students can participate in each exchange program during a semester, but there is no significant financial difference between the exchange programs and the flagship study abroad programs.

While certainly the road less traveled, Honors students should bear in mind that "uncommon" does not necessarily translate to "difficult to work out." On the contrary, Hartman notes that he only "had to fill out USD's internal application and then apply to Aalto as an exchange student. I didn't have to put any effort into actually organizing the program as it was all done for me." The International Office elaborates on its website: "The University of San Diego has reciprocal exchange relationships with a number of outstanding international universities. Participants can fulfill major, minor, core, and other graduation requirements, are eligible to use their USD financial aid towards tuition and program fees, maintain their enrollment status at USD while abroad, and receive the same quality advising services at USD."

So, Kensington, Australia? Rio de Janeiro, Brazil? Lisbon, Portugal? Or, of course, Helsinki, Finland, anyone? In the words of J.R.R. Tolkien, "Home is behind, the world ahead, / And there are many paths to tread." Are you ready to choose yours?

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For more information, check out Jarett's travel blog. If you are interested in studying abroad in Finland, you can email Jarett.

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Director's Report

Dr. Jim Gump, Honors Program Director

Established thirty-five years ago to promote interdisciplinary learning and undergraduate research, strengthen the intellectual climate of the campus, and maintain the vision of the liberal arts as central to the college experience, the Honors Program has become the most prestigious and competitive academic program on campus. The hallmarks of the program—upper-division, team-taught interdisciplinary seminars and a senior thesis—continue to define the curricular experience and help produce some of our best and brightest students. Over the past decade, for example, six Honors graduates were recognized as class valedictorians and five Honors students won Fulbright Scholarships. Honors graduates have also achieved great success in nonprofits, medicine, law, business, education, and politics. In many ways, the Honors Program has been instrumental in shaping the university into a student-centered, research-focused, nationally-ranked institution of higher learning.

Erin Prickett (Honors Program Coordinator) and I are very excited about several Honors initiatives this year. This past July, staff members from Outdoor Adventures accompanied twenty-seven incoming Honors students to Santa Cruz Island in Channel Islands National Park. In this inaugural pre-O adventure designed exclusively for the Honors Program, our students spent a week camping, hiking, kayaking, and bonding. According to Mark Ceder (Assistant Director for Outdoor Adventures), the Channel Islands excursion was their most successful pre-O trip to date.

Once the fall semester began, we also initiated a Brown Bag luncheon series, in which we invited current Honors students to engage with a distinguished Honors alumnus. In September students interacted with Todd Gloria (class of 2000), who is currently the president of the San Diego City Council. The following month, students met with Dr. Tom Kozak (class of 1986), a physician at Scripps Green Hospital. Both speakers were sensational; each shared his fondest memories of USD campus life and offered sage advice on getting the most out of the undergraduate experience.

Finally, the Honors Student Board (HSB) met this fall to assess its structure and clarify student roles and responsibilities. The product of this exercise was a highly successful poster presentation on the evolution of the Board by five HSB members at the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) annual conference in Denver in early November. 

Our program’s continued success leaves me humbled and honored to work with so many talented students, faculty and staff. As a result, I am confident that our program will confront all future opportunities as well as challenges from a position of strength.

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Program News

New HSB Members

At the beginning of the fall semester, the Honors Student Board (HSB) selected four new members from the first-year class. With their diverse backgrounds, interests and strengths, our new members already have contributed substantially to the Board's projects and events. Though new to the team, these four students truly have stepped up to the plate this Fall, embracing their new roles and responsibilities within the Honors Program. We are thrilled to have them on board and look forward to working closely with them over the next four years. Without further ado, meet our new freshman members, (informally) known as the "M Squad:"

Margaret Driscoll

Hometown: Portland, OR
Intended field of study: Behavioral Neuroscience, Pre-Med
Fun fact: I play the mandolin.
Favorite thing about Christmas: The way the Christmas tree makes the whole house smell.

Madeleine Stockton

Hometown: Albuquerque, NM
Intended field of study: Business
Fun fact: I spent a month living in Greece and interning at an advertising firm last Spring!
Favorite thing about Christmas: I love looking at Christmas lights and drinking hot chocolate!

Mckenna Wade

Hometown: Fallbrook, CA
Intended field of study: Biology
Fun fact: I’m addicted to all things Disney
Favorite thing about Christmas: Lights displays

Michael Schwabe

Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio
Intended field of study: Biochemistry Pre-Dental
Fun fact: Only freshman from Ohio
Favorite thing about Christmas: My mom always makes cinnamon rolls Christmas morning and they are always delicious.

National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) conference

By Kate Motsinger

Two weeks prior to Thanksgiving, five members of the Honor Student Board represented the USD Honors Program at the annual National Collegiate Honors Council Conference in Denver, CO. Accompanied by Erin Prickett ’10 and Dr. Jim Gump, the students spent the first day attending presentations and interacting with fellow Honors students from around the U.S. The day culminated with an inspiring presentation from Erik Weihenmayer, the blind mountain-climber who successfully scaled the “seven summits”—the seven tallest peaks on each continent. Bright and early the next morning, the Board members presented on the “Evolution of the Honors Student Board” at the breakfast Idea Exchange. Co-Presidents Taylor Kress ‘15 and Kevin Fain ’15 were pleased to report that USD had one of the most popular booths at the Exchange and distributed nearly all of the handouts brought for the occasion.

To celebrate this successful venture, the group enjoyed a dinner at the Thirsty Lion English-style pub in the heart of downtown Denver. Board members also made a point of supporting veterans by accepting noisemakers that were being handed out in honor of Veterans Day; Dr. Gump advised that their use had been spent by the conclusion of dinner. Overall, the NCHC Conference was a rewarding experience that afforded the Board the opportunity to re-examine the structure of HSB. Through the process of putting the presentation together, the Board members identified past strengths and weaknesses, which allowed them to settle on a new hierarchical organization. This revamped structure clearly delineates Board members’ roles and responsibilities, which ultimately will help with the Board’s cohesiveness. The Executive Committee for the Board looks forward to implementing this new structure fully at the beginning of next semester.

Pictured (Left to Right): Dr. Jim Gump, Mary Beth Putz, Kelly Yu, Kate Motsinger, Taylor Kress, Kevin Fain

Feeding America San Diego

By Brooke Thayer

In one of the final LLC events of the year, Honors LLC students traveled to Feeding America San Diego. The students were given a brief tour of the warehouse and some statistics regarding hunger in San Diego; one in six adults and one in four children in San Diego are hungry. Feeding America distributes approximately 56,000 meals per week and in a single two hour period Honors students sorted 4,800 pounds of food, which is equal to approximately 2,200 meals. The students were divided into three groups and worked at three stations where some students checked the integrity of the food, others examined the product dates, and others sorted and organized the food. The event allowed students to learn more about their local community, the challenges that community members face, and the ways in which students can give back and serve others.

Virtual Fall 2014 Open House

by Michael Schwabe

The open house was tons of fun! It was chaotic at first but eventually we worked out a system to distribute the questions efficiently. Many of the prospective students were concerned with how programs worked and were even planning ahead for post-graduate studies. It is always exciting to see passion in younger students looking to come to USD.

Brown Bag Luncheons

By Erin Prickett

This year, we initiated the Brown Bag Series to facilitate connection-building between current Honors students and Honors Program alumni. The students bring their lunches (brown bags), and the alumni provide valuable insights and career advice. These informal conversations are designed to improve the program's visibility, strengthen its identity, and enhance relationships with alumni. We hold the luncheons in our relatively new Honors lounge (Student Life Pavilion 410) and cap the attendance at 25 in order to keep the setting intimate. We ask our featured alumni to talk about their USD experiences, and to chat about their career trajectory since graduation. We then open the floor to some Q and A.

The first alumnus to kick off the series was Todd Gloria, San Diego City Council President. Todd graduated in 2000 with a degree in History and Political Science. He was an Honors student and Truman Scholar who remained heavily involved on campus throughout his four years. Todd returned to campus in September, accompanied by his Chief of Staff Jamie Fox and Staff Assistant Nick Serrano. He talked about how his involvement in USD's student government translated into his political career.

Our second alumus was Dr. Tom Kozak, who graduated from USD in 1986 with a degree in Biology. He attended UCI for medical school and is now a physician at Scripps Green Hospital. Dr. Kozak reflected on his positive experience at USD, emphasizing the unique opportunity he had to work closely with faculty.

These luncheons provide an incredible networking opportunity for our students, who find themselves mingling with the alumni and exchanging contact information at the end of the events. We will hold two more luncheons in the Spring semester.

Social Media Update

By Michael Schwabe

In high school, I ran the community service program’s Instagram and Twitter. I wanted to get involved with HSB quickly and when the position for social chair was announced, I quickly volunteered. My goal is to get current and past honors students to follow the page. I will highlight and post pictures from our events during the week and hope to eventually highlight individual students each week. I am always open to suggestions for the page, so feel free to email me.

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Study Abroad Corner

Germany

By Tommy Klein

I really don’t know what to say about my abroad experience. I could talk about the friends I made; how my friend group is composed of 9 different countries in 3 different continents, how close we have gotten, and how sad I will be when all go our separate ways. I could talk about all the places I have traveled and the things I have seen: Cologne, Dusseldorf, Koblenz, Hamburg, Boppard, Luxemburg, Trier, Rome, Amsterdam, Munich, Freiburg, and Riga. Or I could talk about this University; how this top ranked university challenged me unlike any other school, and everything I have learned from the ultra-driven students. But I have neither the time nor the space to talk about all of these topics or any of them in depth. So I will just say this; study abroad. Not as an excuse to party in another country for a semester, but to learn. It is such a great opportunity to actually experience other cultures, to meet people from different backgrounds, and to discover yourself. I may have come to Germany to travel Europe, but looking back as my time here dwindles away, I realize the true value of my experience was everything I have learned.

Orkney Islands

by Chloe Berghausen

Two summers ago, my advisor, Dr. Alana Cordy-Collins, started posting pictures online about a magical land where there were puffins, standing stones, and about a site that may prove to revolutionize all of our preconceived notions about the Neolithic era. As an archaeology student I was hooked. I pleaded when term started for her to take me along next year. She said she wasn’t able to go, but that she had a project for me if I wanted to undertake it. And so my honors senior thesis project was born.

Nestled on a narrow spit of land between two stone circles that predate Stonehenge, the Ness of Brodgar site has forced Neolithic archaeologists around the world to regard the Orkney Islands as a ceremonial focal point. Radiocarbon dating has shown it to have been occupied from 3200-2300 BCE, and recent discoveries have hinted at use well into the Bronze Age. The walls that continue to stand strike visitors as being built only just yesterday. The exquisite masonry and delicate carvings belay the fact that the site is over 5000 years old. One of the most enthralling finds the site has to offer is the discovery of paint on the walls. Made from hematite and limonite (both locally available), the decorative mineral residue had only been found in two of the numerous structures on site. The difficulty in identifying the pigmented panels results from environmental deterioration as well as confusion with the natural oxidization of the sandstone. In the 2014 digging season, I was trained in a new and innovative technology to search for the elusive painted walls. Decorrelation Stretch Algorithm (DStretch) was pioneered by Jon Harman in 2004 as an image enhancement technique designed specifically for archaeologists. Used methodically for the first time in Scotland, this past summer’s work yielded possible paint in two new structures.

As a university student it is incredible to be able to say you have undertaken individual research in another country. What makes this story even more unique is that it was completely funded by the University of San Diego. When I discovered I had been accepted as a volunteer for the excavation I wrote to the office of undergraduate research. I explained this unique opportunity and how funding me would encourage fellow students to apply for incredible internships. I am not an anomaly; I am merely one of many students doing fascinating things here at USD. It was forwarded to all of the deans of arts and sciences and I received the entirety of the sum requested. I was granted funds from Dean Norton’s Discretionary Fund, Business Link, and the Honors Program’s Hinman Grant. The support was overwhelming and gave me a great deal to live up to. Because of this experience I was able to present at the Rock Art Symposium here in town. I have been tremendously blessed by this experience and am so grateful to USD for rallying behind this project. I am currently writing my first article while applying to graduate schools to continue my education. Hopefully my research will help the archaeologists at the Ness of Brodgar to more easily recognize potentially painted walls in the future.

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2014 A Special Thank You

Honors Preceptors

  • Lauren Benz: General Chemistry
  • Del Dickson: Introduction to Political Science
  • Jim Gump: War and Peace in the Modern World
  • Stephen Conroy: Priciples of Microeconomics
  • Frank Jacobitz: Introduction to Engineering
  • Michael Mayer: Introduction to Evolution
  • Geoffrey Morse: Introduction to Evolution
  • Kathryn Statler: The Vietnam War
  • Jennifer Zwolinski Introductory Psychology 

Pictured Above (Left to Right): Dr. Lauren Benz, Dr. Jennifer Zwolinski, Dr. Jim Gump, Dr. Michael Mayer, Dr. Stephen Conroy, Dr. Kathryn Statler (Not Pictured: Dr. Del Dickson, Dr. Frank Jacobitz, Dr. Geoffrey Morse)

Honors single-taught Faculty

  • Brian Clack, Philosophy
  • Emily Edmonds-Poli, Political Science
  • Florence Gillman, Theology and Religious Studies
  • Mary Hotz, English
  • Gary Jones, Philosophy
  • Cameron Parker, Mathematics
  • Karma Lekshe Tsomo, Theology and Religious Studies
  • Mark Woods, Philosophy

honors team-taught faculty

  • The Facebook Phenomenon: The (Social) Capital of Social Media
    • Bradley Bond, Communication
    • Justine Rapp, Marketing
  • East Asia: Nukes, Narcotics, and Nationalism
    • Yi Sun, History
    • Randy Willoughby, Political Science
  • Power and Politics
    • Craig Barkacs, Business Management
    • Linda Barkacs, Business Ethics and the Law
  • Education and Incarceration: Manifestations of Social Marginality in the Contemporary United States
    • Erik Fritsvold, Sociology Crime, Justice, Law & Society
    • Lisa Nunn, Sociology General

Honors Preceptorial assistants

  • Emma Doolittle
  • Austin Jacobs
  • Gert Loechle
  • Chelsea Marshall
  • Grecia Rojas
  • Sarah Shotts
  • Sydney Smith
  • Ryan St. Onge
  • Marta Stojanovic
  • Brooke Thayer

Honors Residential assistants

  • Jessica An
  • Esther Cho
  • Dante Enriquez
  • Alexa Layne

Pictured Above: Honors PAs and RAs at the LLC Luncheon in KIPJ's Garden of the Sea.